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Sixteen Candles tops Pretty in Pink

While some John Hughes fans sing the praises of ‘Pretty in Pink,’ here’s why ‘Sixteen Candles’ blows it away

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MCA/Courtesy Everett Collection

People are crazy. Evidently, one of those people is my wife. You see, I have had a series of encounters lately that have disturbed me greatly. I mean, right down to my core. It started with an argument with a coworker (who shall remain nameless to protect her from the embarrassment of being so obviously wrong). She insisted that Pretty in Pink was the ultimate John Hughes teen movie of the 1980s. I went on to mock her wrongness, explaining how everybody knows that Sixteen Candles holds the crown of that kingdom. She wouldn’t budge on her position, but I figured, hey, there’s no accounting for taste in some people.

The story should have ended there…but it didn’t. A few other women also started piping up in favor of PIP, and the situation truly boiled over the other night when I caught my wife watching the movie for approximately the 8,237th time on cable. I tested my theory out on her.

”You know Sixteen Candles is a much better movie, right?”

Silence.

”I mean, Pretty in Pink is great, don’t get me wrong, but Sixteen Candles is maybe the funniest teen movie ever made.”

Silence.

”Is this a chick thing? All these women are going on and on about Pretty in Pink? Do women have a worse sense of humor than men? Is that it?”

Deathly stare.

”You want me to shut up so you can watch the movie, don’t you?”

Silent nod.

I don’t honestly believe it is merely a gender thing; that was just to get my wife’s goat (although I do want to poll all you readers at the end, so please submit you gender and vote there). But I am ready to lay out all the ways in that Sixteen Candles is superior to Pretty in Pink. (And you Breakfast Club and Weird Science fans can stop right there — both fine films, but this is only a two horse race.)

 First off, it should be noted that Hughes wrote and directed Sixteen Candles, while Pretty in Pink was actually directed by Howard Deutch (who also brought us PIP clone Some Kind of Wonderful), so already Candles gets extra points for “Hughesness” right there.

Farmer Ted vs. Duckie

Okay, I get it, Duckie is cute when he pretends to be Otis Redding, and you can’t help but shed a tear when he’s sitting there depressed in the rain all by himself to the sweet, sorrowful sounds of the Smiths. But people, guess who is he imitating for that entire movie? That’s right — Anthony Michael Hall! Hall is flat-out genius in Sixteen Candles playing the self-proclaimed ”King of the Dipshits.” He’s responsible for no less than a hundred classic moments: from charging admission to see Molly Ringwald’s underwear, to making a post-party cocktail in Jake’s kitchen, to getting his dorky friends to take a picture of him and a passed out hottie in the Rolls Royce. Honestly, it is no contest.

Jake Ryan vs. Blane

I can’t tell you how many women I know who have embarrassingly admitted to having a crush on Andrew McCarthy after Pretty in Pink came out. You know what? They should be embarrassed! His supposedly dreamboat character of Blane has no backbone, dresses lame, and has an even lamer haircut. In fact, the only thing he’s pretty much good for is hitting on girls on library computers. Seriously, what is the appeal? Now, Jake Ryan on the other hand is a certified stud. Hell, even I have a bit of a man crush on the dude. Again, how anyone could chose Blane over Jake is beyond me. Unless they are looking for a physically non-threatening wussy who likes to be told what to do because he can’t seem to make up his mind. (Actually, that kind of sounds a bit like me. Whoops!)

Thompson Twins vs. OMD

Okay, as if the fact that Molly Ringwald chases after McCarthy isn’t lame enough, she has to do it to a synthpop one hit wonder. Perhaps OMD should have changed the words to ”If you leave…that’s fine because I’ll just go make out with Duckie who I was supposed to be with anyway before test audiences made the studio tack on this cheesy ending.” Make no mistake, I’m no huge Thompson Twins fan — they wore funny hats and had ponytails in weird places — but I’ll take ”If You Were Here” over ”If You Leave” any day. And having Samantha and Jake sit on the table blowing out her birthday candles before leaning in for a kiss is a lot more original than simply sucking face in a parking lot next to you new loser boyfriend’s BMW.

Paul Dooley vs. Harry Dean Stanton

Ooooh, this is a toughie. Dooley is really good at bringing the funny (especially in the masterpiece that is Strange Brew), and as Ringwald’s dad in Sixteen Candles he clocks in with his usual A-game, but Harry Dean Stanton gets some nice bonding scenes with daughter Ringwald in PIP. I score this one a hotly contested draw.

Just another list of things that Candles has going for it: Joan Cusack trying to drink from the water fountain, John Cusack performing what can only be described as the best air bass guitar ever, topless women (not that I am into that or anything), that freaky dwarf lady from Poltergeist, the Donger (even if his character was mildly offensive), and finally, Molly Ringwald getting felt up by her grandmother.

Of course, there is one thing that Pretty in Pink clearly has in its favor, and that thing is the genius of James Spader as white-suit-sporting, cigarette-dangling, feathered hair-rocking Steff. Spader gives a sleazeball performance of the ages, and it really served as a template for 1980s bad boy blond yuppie a-holes in training. (His quote ”That girl was, is, and always will be nada!” pretty much sums up ’80s lingo in a nutshell.) I suppose the closest thing Candles has to such a character is Haviland Morris’ Caroline, but even with her topless scene (again, not like I was into that…really, honey) she doesn’t really come close. Plus, she sleeps with Farmer Ted. How bad can she really be?

So I’ll give you Spader, but otherwise, for me, it’s Sixteen Candles all the way. But we need to find out if this is merely a gender thing — boys going for the goofier, sillier Sixteen Candles, girls going for the more romantic Pretty in Pink. Write in at the end of this column, give your gender and pick of better film along with quick reason for the pick. We’ll go over the results next week and see what’s what.

NEXT PAGE: Obsession of the Week, The Five and Reader Mail!

OBSESSION OF THE WEEK

Well, obsession may be pushing it, but I went to see the new Joe Strummer documentary, The Future Is Unwritten, this past week. I was a huge Clash fan growing up and love rock docs in general, so I was pretty amped to check this out, especially considering it was directed by Julien Temple, who was also responsible for the excellent Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and The Fury. This film is not nearly as well put together as that one (it drags half an hour too long, spends too much time on Strummer’s pre- and post-Clash life, and indulges too much in shots of random friends and family sitting around a campfire), but still offers up some incredible old footage of the hardest working band in show business. Whether you’re a fan of the Clash, or someone who never quite understood what all the fuss was about, this movie offers a portrait of a group that refused to be limited by musical genres or geography. Make seeing it part of your future.

THE FIVE

The Five Most Random Things To Be Found in My Office

READER MAIL

Lots of thoughts regarding my last column on the sham that is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Plus, some more props for our boy Cheadle in an oh-so-special spin-off. Without further ado, on to the mailbag…

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is turning into the entertainment equivalent of the Baseball All-Star game. It’s like Hollywood feels they have to include someone from all levels of entertainment. David Spade is like the left-fielder from the Devil Rays. Anyway, my favorite star is Britney Spears who got hers when she was only 21 years old! I guess they figured they’d give it to her while she was still famous for something entertainment related. — Dave Scott

The fact is, the stars these days are merely put there for promotional purposes — to help sell a new movie or CD. It actually has very little to do with merit. And the forces behind putting someone there are almost always the companies with something to gain financially. Which brings us to the next email…

Just a quick comment on the Walk of Fame stars: the stars themselves can’t pay for their stars; it must come from outside sources. That still doesn’t explain why David Spade has a star, though. — Winona Patterson

Yeah, more often than not it is a movie studio or record label that pays the $25,000 fee. I don’t think the celebrities are actually prohibited from paying it themselves, but as Walk of Fame Selection Committee chairman Johnny Grant told me, no one ever has.

I have no problem with George Lucas having a star, but dismissing Ricky Martin as just a ”former member of Menudo” ignores the huge contributions that he has made to music and also his many philanthropic works. Ricky has sold in excess of 55 million CDs and he is one of the biggest Spanish speaking singing stars, ever. His ”crossover” success in English was amazing and has opened the door for so many other artists. He is truly an international star and one of the most recognized. He has won more awards than can be counted, including two Grammy awards, has been nominated for many more and he is nominated for four Latin Grammy awards this year. His work with the Ricky Martin Foundation has helped exploited adults and children, victims of the tsunami and earthquakes, children with cancer, doctors in training and schools in need of musical instruments, among many others. Maybe the press should learn more about Mr. Martin and would then realize that he has long deserved this star and it was about time that he received it! — Sheila Hyde

Sheila, I hear you loud and clear, especially when it comes to Martin’s charitable endeavors, which is exactly why I said I had nothing against the guy. Am I a fan of his music? No. But obviously a lot of people are. It’s just that at this rate it won’t be long before another ”She Bangs” singer, William Hung, gets his own star, too.

I imagine you’ve received more mail on this, but Harry Parke (Parkyakarkus) is known today primarily as the father of Albert Brooks and Super Dave Osborne; the real family name is Einstein. — Richard LeComte

Thanks, Richard. Yes, a lot of email came in about this famous father, most not as nicely worded as yours. Who knew there were so many fans of 1930s radio comedians out there? The story of his death, which I got into briefly last time, is a classic, however. According to published reports, not only did Parkyakarkus die in Milton Berle’s lap at a Friar’s Club Roast, but when he first collapsed, Berle asked out, ”Is there a doctor in the house?” Naturally, the crowd thought Berle was making a joke and burst out into laughter. He wasn’t. Berle then asked singer Tony Martin to croon a tune to distract the crowd from the dead guy on the floor. The singer’s choice? The all too apt ”There’s No Tomorrow.”

Wow – how could you forget to mention Cheadle’s comedy turn on the Golden Girls’ spin off Golden Palace as the put upon hotel manager? — Christy Smith

Sadly to say, what was funniest about Cheadle in Golden Palace was his mustache. I’d actually tried my best to block this entire show from my memory. Thanks, Christy! Thanks a lot!

Okay, it is time, folks. Give me your name, gender, and pick of ultimate John Hughes ’80s teen film: Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink. Or simply make fun of me for getting my ass kicked by Oscar de la Hoya. Your pick. Just email to theglutton@ew.com, or simply fill out the handy dandy form below. See ya next week!

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